The travel and tourism sector in the UAE bounced back strongly, achieving the third fastest growth in the Middle East region last year, according to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
The sector recovered by 41.1 per cent in 2021 in UAE, supported by a 48.8 per cent increase in revenues from international visitors, the global body said in its latest “Travel and Tourism Economic Impact 2022” report.
“The re-scheduled Expo 2020, and international cricket events such as the Indian Premier League and the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup were factors in the boost to the number of inbound arrivals from 11.3 million in 2020 to 12.9 million in 2021,” WTTC said on Tuesday.
The study revealed that visitor spending in the UAE accounted for 45 per cent in 2021 as against the pre-pandemic period. The data showed that tourist spending reached $18.4 billion (Dh67.5 billion) last year as compared to $40.7 billion (Dh149.3 billion) in 2019.
The UAE ranking improved last year as the emirate was positioned at eighth in terms of visitor spending as compared to 10th in 2019.
Tourist numbers are now closing in on pre-pandemic levels in Dubai reaching over 7.12 million international overnight visitors in the first six months of this year, growing by more than 183 per cent year-on-year during the January-June period.
Industry executives noted that the 2022 outlook for the UAE travel and tourism sector is strong on the back of MICE and sports events and initiatives taken by the government to boost confidence among foreign tourists and investors.
Abdulla Al Abdulla, COO and group general manager of Central Hotels, said since the gradual lifting of Covid-19 restrictions, the UAE's travel and tourism industry has recovered rapidly.
“Expo 2020 and Dubai Tourism initiatives have made Dubai grow faster. The hospitality sector in the UAE is expected to witness significant growth in the coming years due to the significant increase in tourist arrivals,” he said.
“New tourism incentives, attractions, and facility renovations are expected to attract new tourists and increase average stay time in the UAE. Meanwhile, continued investment in Dubai's airports and hotels, resorts, and diversification of source markets are boosting its growth and attractiveness. Local tourism developments, parks and resorts, and cultural attractions are expected to attract leisure travellers over the next decade,” said Al Abdulla.
Ayman Ashor, cluster general manager, Al Bandar Rotana and Arjaan by Rotana, also sees a healthy and promising outlook for the hospitality, travel and tourism sectors in 2022.
“The impressive growth was from the momentum generated by the hugely successful Expo 2020, which brought immense attention to Dubai and the easing of travel restrictions, Golden Visa initiatives, ease of doing businesses, state-of-the-art infrastructure, logistics and transportation services. During the first half of 2022, the ‘City of Wonders’ secured rights to host 99 major gatherings, which is a huge achievement,” he added.
Ayman said the performance has been good so far and they’re positive to keep the momentum going.
In the Middle East, WTTC said the travel and tourism sector experienced the slowest recovery in 2021 among all global regions. After a fall of almost 50 per cent in the sector’s contribution to GDP in 2020, it rebounded by 15.9 per cent compared to the global average of 21.7 per cent. As a result, travel and tourism GDP stood at $189 billion in 2021, 41.8 per cent below the 2019 level.
Furthermore, the sector’s contribution to employment increased by 390,000 to reach 5.6 million jobs in 2021, accounting for 7.3 per cent of all the jobs in the region.
India was the most important non-Middle East source market, accounting for nine per cent of all inbound arrivals to the Middle East region in 2021.
In 2022, the sector’s GDP growth is expected to more than double to 36.1 per cent, supported mainly by the estimated 80 per cent increase in spending from international visitors.
“The upcoming Fifa World Cup 2022 is anticipated to attract a significant number of international visitors. The sector’s GDP is forecasted to return to 2019 levels in 2024… By the end of 2032, travel and tourism is also forecasted to create 3.6 million new jobs compared to 2022,” it said.
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